How Does Vision Affect Accuracy for Bowhunters?
February 05, 2013
Question: I am getting old. As I get fatter, so do my glasses. I am having a harder time gaining a clear visual of my target due to the curvature of my lenses. Do you have any advice? — Mark Henderson, Arlington, Texas
See Better to Shoot Better
To answer your question simply, the only way to compensate for one lens is with another one. So really, short of using a scope or possibly a very small peep sight to clarify your view, there is not much you can do directly. I don't like small peep sights because they overly restrict light and make it very hard to shoot early and late in the day and in areas with a thick canopy overhead. So, it may be worth experimenting with a few scopes to see if that helps. Many target archery companies make scopes. Mounted on a moveable-pin sight body, these scopes might be the ticket to improve your sight picture when hunting.
This question brings up the bigger issue of vision as it relates to hunting accuracy. I am going to touch on that now. One could make a strong argument that a bowhunter's eyesight is his most important physical attribute.
How Eyesight Affects Shooting Ability
Randy Ulmer had laser surgery on his eyes more than a decade ago because he noticed that his vision was impeding his accuracy. Prior to the laser surgery, he had signed up for the Vegas indoor tournament. It was fully six weeks after the surgery date and Randy had no worries about his ability to prepare in that amount of time. But the surgery was botched and Randy was left with 20/40 vision.
With the low quality of his new (and supposedly improved) vision, he couldn't hold groups. He dropped out. He said that if he'd shot the tournament he would have gotten his butt kicked. His group size was at least 50 percent larger after the surgery than before.
When it was possible to re-enter surgery, Randy had the vision corrected by a second laser operation that left him with excellent 20/10 vision. That is when he really noticed the difference quality of vision can make on group size. At 30 yards with poorer 20/40 vision, his groups were about the same size as those he could later shoot at 40 to 50 yards with his 20/10 corrected vision. That's a big difference whether hunting or competing. Just being able to see the spot clearly improves accuracy more than most bowhunters realize.
Peep Sight Diameter Affects Vision
I already touched on this, but I want to elaborate a bit more. The size of your peep sight also affects the way you see the target and thus your ability to hit a small aiming point. Bigger is not always better. Small peeps (1/8 inch or less) produce greater depth of field (more of what you see is in focus). This makes it possible for archers to see both the target and the pin more clearly.
Also, a small peep makes it easier to precisely center your pin while aiming. Under optimum target shooting conditions, the small peep is definitely the way to go. However, for the bowhunter there is another side to the argument. A large peep improves visibility under low light conditions and makes it easier to pick the right sight pin at a glance and keep everything together in a quick encounter.
Target shooters can get both precision and visibility by opting for an adjustable peep called the Super Peep. Using a small tool, you can change the inserts that thread into the housing making it a two-minute job to change the size of the orifice. Use the smallest diameter insert the conditions will permit for the greatest degree of precision on every single shot.
For hunting, this approach is cumbersome at best — you don't normally have the time to make these kinds of adjustments on the fly. Instead, you have to compromise and use a fixed orifice peep. I use a Meta Peep from G5 Outdoors at 1/4 inch in diameter. I find that under hunting conditions the improved low light visibility and the slightly wider field of view these large peeps afford offset the negatives. Your eye has a natural centering tendency and will do a good enough job of instinctively positioning the pin the peep for normal bowhunting situations. If the shot is at the limit of your comfortable range you may have to take an extra second to make sure that the pin is properly centered.
Don't take your eyesight for granted. In bowhunting, you are only as good as your eyes. You can't hit what you can't see clearly.